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Is Anybody Out There? – Rusty

By Ian McDougall

Rusty Murphy* is convinced spy satellites are surveilling our suburban strolls. He’s so sure, he stays inside his home most of the time. He also talks to his TV, and thinks it talks back to him.

“I was watching a Sunday morning news program about the way India has changed. I was thinking how Gandhi would roll in his grave. Then a couple of minutes later the host said the exact same thing! Whoa! What is this? There have been heaps of similar occurrences. Coincidence? Or am I just on the same wave length? I don’t know what it is, but it sends me off on a tangent.”

Rusty is 33. He’s tired and lethargic all the time, due to the volume of medication he’s on. He says he is haunted by paranoia and schizophrenia which is the result of early-onset drug-induced psychosis. “It was brought about by my love affair with weed,” he says. “I started when I was about 12 years old.”

Rusty’s first delusional episode occurred at age 21 and remains a big part of his life. His brother found him convulsing on the floor, where Rusty thought he was being attacked. He got to see a psychiatrist, but ‘the voices’ told Rusty not to trust him. He started taking medication and calmed down after a few months, but then began the on/off relationship with his medication. “The second episode occurred after 72 hours with no sleep and off meds. I self-referred and spent a night in a mental health unit.”

Rusty recalls his life since leaving school in Year 11. He started working in a factory making doors, which was both itchy (due to the very fine sawdust) and unfulfilling. Rusty went back to school to complete his HSC, with dreams of going to university to study aeronautical engineering.

After completing his HSC, Rusty travelled to Katherine where his brother was based in the RAAF. Rusty began working at a bar and doing general hospitality, both in Katherine and in Brisbane. He recalls life then just being about parties and good times.

But then he got sick. He says he was living in a dream and unable to get his thoughts together. He had no job, no income, no Centrelink benefits and was forced to live out of his friends’ pockets. The only things to help keep Rusty on a semi-sane path were music, spirituality and his Mum.

“I am anxious. I am delusional. I can’t go out by myself … feel like I am being watched. Mum is my eyes and ears to keep me real when we go out.”

Rusty got into Partners in Recovery (PIR) through his psychiatrist. Nick John, a PIR Facilitator from FSG, helped Rusty see a psychologist who helps motivate him to set goals, which are to get a driver’s license and get his own place once his Mum retires.

Rusty is trying to use psychological means to adapt rather than using drugs. He says his challenges are to stay calm and relaxed and not get ‘sucked in’ by his condition and ruin his day… or his Mum’s.

Nick arranged for Rusty to be supported through FSG Australia’s PEARL (Peer Engaged Assisted Recovery Lifestyle) program. “I am grateful for this support,” Rusty said. “It helps me handle day-to-day things.”

Rusty believes he has unrealistic assessments of himself which he says seems to be a common trait among other schizophrenics he has been in contact with. “We aspire to be fixers, problem solvers but we’re too sensitive to sadness and suffering and wear ourselves out,” says Rusty.

“It’s good to open up to someone who understands. I am interested in group sessions. I did some in Canberra and will ask Nick to help me find some here.”

“Friends are so important, too. I have a small network of friends; one an early childhood mate from when we were about 11 or 12. He had no mother. I had no father. We naturally bonded. My main challenge is to try to stay sane”.

“Because I worry about the surveillance, I spend too much time alone. I get an inflated sense of importance. I am looking too broadly instead of focusing on self and family. The world – the mind! – is bigger than us as individuals and many of us just get lost in it.”

* not his real name

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PIR is a Federally funded program. Other consortia members include Gold Coast Health and Mental Health Association QLD